Jason Pfetcher is a young, progressive attorney living in Chicago. He is also the husband of my niece, Heidi, and the father of two of my favorite little people, Lauren and Ruby. Jason and I usually run into each other at family events a couple of times a year, and when we meet the topic of conversation is often politics and the state of the nation. Jason is blessed with clear insight and a seismic interest in the world around him - and I always benefit from our encounters.
This past June Jason sent me the first issue of a new magazine. The New Territory is being published by a young friend of his whom he met nearly a decade ago when they were both doing political organizing in Laclede County, Missouri. Jason describes Tina Casagrand, who was only seventeen at the time they met, as "more self-aware and politically active than most adults I've ever met."
As a novice editor and publisher, Ms. Casagrand's literary endeavor is quite impressive. The 120-page initial volume is a montage of fiction, geography, history, culture, and science all closely bound with Missouri and the portion of the nation that she refers to as the Lower Midwest. Her self-defined mission with The New Territory is to "support writers and document the land, people, problems, and possibilities" of the area of the nation that she has chosen to illuminate.
Ms. Casagrand describes the theme of the first issue of her work as being "harboring strength in the earth," and she uses that link to weave together stories and photographs that help to clarify and define the region. One of my favorite pieces in this first volume is the story of two brothers-in-law who worked to build a "dirt moving" business in Oklahoma. Writer Bryce McElhaney, a journalism student from the University of Oklahoma, looked at the path to ultimate success that was followed by two young friends who started out in the early 1970's making a living by digging ditches. They kept moving dirt, buying equipment, and moving more dirt - slowly and steadily making a success of their business and of their lives.
The earth is also viewed through a farming lens with "The 1,000 Year Plan" by "urban farmer" Adam Saunders of Columbia, Missouri, as he looks at a sustainability model for agriculture that would stretch across the current millennium. Saunders' plan incorporates technology, conservation measures, and more comprehensive land use to meet the needs of future generations.
And there is poetry, fiction, and some beautiful photography in the pages of The New Territory. I'm still finding delights and treasures in this first issue!
Congratulations to Tina Casagrand and her very talented staff of writers and photographers. May your hard work and dedication to an idea serve you - and us - well into the future.